Archaeological evidence for destructive earthquakes in Sicily between 400 B.C. and A.D. 600



A systematic archaeoseismological study indicates that at least three earthquakes occurred between 400 B.C. and A.D. 600, causing destruction to numerous ancient monuments in Sicily. Evidence for these earthquakes comes from the collapse style of buildings (toppled walls, column drums in a domino-style arrangement, directional collapses, etc.), and the exclusion of other likely causes for such effects. Dating of inferred earthquakes is based on coins (accurate to within 5–10 years), pottery (accurate to within 50–200 years), and other artifacts. The oldest documented earthquake occurred between 370 and 300 B.C. and caused the collapse of two Greek temples in Selinunte. This otherwise poorly documented event was probably also the cause of extensive destruction in northeastern Sicily in the first century A.D. Destruction of some sites may be assigned to an earthquake that occurred between 360 and 374 and correlates with the A.D. 365 seismic sequence known from historical sources. This study covers a wider region and provides a more precise dating of earthquakes than previous studies. Although it focuses on a certain period (4th–3rd centuries B.C., 4th–7th centuries A.D.), it indicates that the period before A.D. 1000 is not a period of seismic quiescence in Sicily as was previously believed, but to a period characterized by strong and destructive earthquakes. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.